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Experts foresee further escalation in PPE demand as new UK strain spreads

Shardul Nautiyal, Mumbai
Monday, February 8, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

With reports of people in India and globally being infected by the new UK strain, experts foresee a further escalation in personal protective equipment (PPE) demand worldwide and have also advocated use of N95 masks, surgical masks, KN95 or KF94 masks and double masks instead of cotton masks.

PPE coverall is an important medical device for healthcare workers handling Covid-19 patients.

“In 2020, the global PPE market was worth US$ 55 billion. It is expected to rise to US$ 92.5 billion by 2025. The growth of India’s PPE industry has been meteoric so far. As demand escalates, a greater focus on innovation and quality can transform India into a global hub for PPE and help us navigate our way out of the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to Harjiv Singh, board member, GlobalPPEMart.

GlobalPPEMart.com is a technology and marketing B2B platform between manufacturers and buyers of PPE and has the distinction of being the first global online marketplace to address the shortage of Covid-19 gear across the world during the ongoing pandemic.

A few European nations, such as France, Germany and Austria, are encouraging their citizens to forego single-use cloth masks in favour of medical-grade masks when in public as a part of effective infection control practice.

In December, the new strain accounted for 60 per cent of infections in London and reports of 150 people getting infected India in the last week of January 2021 alone. Other variants have since been identified. New mutations are reported in several countries every week.

“Last year, India developed a robust infrastructure to manufacture PPE at scale, cementing its position as the world’s second-largest producer of protective gear. The emergence of newer coronavirus strains in multiple countries provides Indian PPE manufacturers with a fresh opportunity to penetrate deeper into these markets,” Singh explained.

Singh further added, “Since the start of the pandemic, several countries, which initially relied extensively on Chinese and Asian manufactured PPE, began to boost indigenous PPE production. Therefore, Indian PPE manufacturers must focus on quality to effectively compete in these global markets and manufacture to global standards PPE at competitive prices. Increased public spending on R&D will play a crucial role.”

India already has a strong R&D infrastructure in place, which helped build PPE ecosystem from scratch in 2020. There are facilities like the South India Textile Research Association (SITRA) in Coimbatore, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in New Delhi and Ordnance Factories in Ambernath, Kanpur and Muradnagar which conduct testing programmes on indigenous PPE. This has helped accelerate domestic supply, eventually enabling India to begin exporting within just four months.

“The Government of India’s push for R&D and the establishment of mega textile parks, in addition to the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, in the recent Union Budget comes is also a welcome sign. These initiatives will provide a strong impetus to the PPE industry and help India manufacture equipment of international standards. Now, we need a robust implementation plan to consolidate the fragmented PPE industry and bring price transparency. This can lead the road to economic recovery. The proposal to double healthcare spending is another welcome step. Efforts must be taken to ensure that healthcare works have access to quality PPE,” Singh added.

“Scientists believe that it is too early to determine if vaccinated individuals can get sick with the newer variants. Thus, an adequate supply of PPE remains crucial for the foreseeable future,” Singh concluded.


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